I have arrived! After a 15 hour flight I touch ground in Hanoi, Vietnam. After hearing from Julian that he had to wait for two hours for his luggage, I’m prepared for staying a while at the airport. When I arrive at the luggage pick up, my bag is already there! Great! I walk through customs, change some money and before I know it, I’m sitting in a taxi, on my way to Ha’s house. This is where Julian and I are staying until we find our own place to live. I ask the taxi driver’s name and age and tell him: Chi muon hoc tieng Viet.’ I want to learn Vietnamese. Since he barely speaks English, this opens up the possibility for conversation. He starts asking me all sorts of ‘simple’ questions so that I can practice my Vietnamese. Time flies, and we arrive at the internet café near Ha’s house where Julian is writing e-mails in the midst of a bunch of kids playing League of Legends.
Soon, these streets around Ha’s house feel like home. First of all, staying at a friend’s house that is already familiar to me makes it easy to feel I have arrived. Ha’s hospitality allowing us to use the house as our own, makes us feel at home. And how wonderful to see my dear friend Ha again! Having no internet, Julian and I are going to the internet café around the corner every day. This is a family owned business, as so many shops and restaurants in Hanoi are. Mother, father, sun and daughter soon feel like family to us, even though the only way of communicating is thanks to their 12 year old daughter who speaks English very well. While doing our work on the computer, the mother sometimes brings us tea, and a snack. And when we leave, we get to bring home fruits or Vietnamese sweets to try out.
We also became regulars at several street food restaurants around the area. Delicious Pho from the leopard print lady who never fails to wear a clothing item with leopard print. She’s always happy and smiling when we arrive. We practice our little bit of Vietnamese with help of a dictionary on Julian’s phone, making clear we want one Pho with meat, and one without meat. While we’re eating, the leopard print lady starts cutting fruits in the back of the room and offers it to us for dessert!
A 100 meters closer to home we see a bia hoi place. Bia hoi is a kind of sparkling beer Vietnam is famous for, and Julian definitely wants to try it. We sit down and find out they serve food as well! And it happens to be delicious rau muong (morning glory) and fried tofu! Off course we come back there rather often and we are welcomed with happy smiles every time. Yesterday when we went back again, Julian got served a beer straight away without asking, and the guy serving us asked me if it’s going to be rau muong and tofu again.
In the evenings, another lady has a transportable shop where she sells boiled sweet potatoes, egg sandwiches, and other food. We love the sweet potatoes and regularly stop to buy one. One evening she starts asking us about our lives: Where are we from and what do we do? She tells us about her kids and explains all the other dishes she also could make for us. At the street corner the xe om (motorbike taxi drivers) always wave at us and say ‘hellooooo!’ Our answer is always the same: ‘No no, we don’t need a xe om.’
In this street, all seems to be in place, and we feel we also have our place among it all. All these new acquaintances with whom we happily practice the little Vietnamese we know; it feels like the friendliest street I’ve ever been in and I feel so at ease.
Just like in our street everything seems to be exactly in the right place, being in Hanoi gives me answers to all my thoughts, doubts and questions. Things start to fall into place now that I’m here. My vague idea of setting up a little project suddenly connects to reality. This means I have to contact people, share my ideas, and put myself out there! Usually, I work with a few of my dear friends. Together we make our dreams happen. Cool retreats, workshops and other projects seem to arise effortlessly when we’re together. However, this allows me to do the things I’m at ease with, and let the things I don’t feel so comfortable with be done by other friends.
Confronted with this reality here in Hanoi, one of the lessons I want to learn reveals itself to me. I want to learn to reach out to people and talk to them with confidence about what I want to do, my ideas, and what I have to offer. This is something I find unbelievably scary! Hanoi is a great place for me to learn this! Making me stronger individually, giving me the opportunity to learn the lessons my soul wants to learn. I feel anxiety and gratitude at the same time. Yes! This is what I came here for. It makes so much sense. Just like in this street, with all its diversity and chaos, everything has its place and role, my journey to Hanoi seems to fit into the bigger picture. The curtain in front of that bigger picture opened up a little bit more for me to see. And this piece, this journey, these lessons I want to learn, clearly fit into that picture.
Right two weeks after my arrival, a creative entrepreneurship course starts in Hanoi. The Knowmads business school from Amsterdam will run a 2 month course. Perfect timing! It seems the right support for my learning process. So I’m back at that wonderful internet café to write my application.